A letter to Mugabe
30 November 2013
Transparency International New Zealand’s annual general meeting last week filled the 200 seat room at the Archives in Wellington – at least to hear Justice Minister Judith Collins and Dame Sylvia Cartwright speak. The preceding business meeting, where the non-profit chapter’s rules were changed and it took thirty seconds to find a non-director willing to endorse the year’s financials, saw around 50 attendees.
Hugs and accolades abounded for New Zealand’s number one ranking in the “corruption perception index” (tied with Denmark and Finland). The tight membership of largely government contractors and employees shared their love of quoting the index, with every country mention including their CPI index in the same breath – Sri Lanka was ‘79’, Papua New Guinea was ‘150’ and Cambodia was ‘157’.
Justice Minister Collins was the first speaker, predictably crowing about all the good work the current government was doing to make the NZ courts more transparent with the proposed Courts Act before Parliament. But when she sought TINZ’s help in New Zealand’s ratification of the ten year old United Nations Convention Against Corruption, she at once underscored the failings and opportunities with TI’s CPI.
New Zealand’s historical position of refusing to pass anti-corruption laws as unnecessary apparently does not play as well on the international stage as it does with the local flock. Currently no New Zealand judge has gone to prison and TINZ was in lockstep with Collins in wanting to keep it that way. Perhaps if TINZ could rank New Zealand higher than #1 and Helen Clark could push from the inside, the United Nations may see it New Zealand’s way.
The Minister clearly felt uncomfortable when former banking ombudsman Liz Brown gave her a parting gift and congratulated her and the government after joking about the irony in TI chapters around the rest of the world being the bane of their governments.
Wellingtonian of the year Suzanne Snively also promoted the New Zealand model of being funded almost entirely by the NZ government and the TINZ membership comprised of bureaucrats and those who feed at the bureaucratic trough. Snively, who is the paid director of TINZ as well as managing director of a company More Media Ltd which contracts to the government, announced she receives many comments from other chapters about how lucky the New Zealand chapter is in not having to get grants from private donors to support their mission.
On her Linked-In profile, Ms Snively promotes her consulting wares, pitching as ‘Executive Chair’ of the fictitious company Transparency International New Zealand Limited (the non-profit charity is ‘Transparency International (New Zealand) Incorporated”) “New Zealand has the potential to be an exemplar to others, demonstrating how this can improve business profitability through lower cost of doing business in overseas countries, better access, lower cost of capital and for those listed companies, a higher yeilding (sic) share price.”
On the wall of the AGM was a large A-3 posting of “ROLL OF HONOUR, External Advisory Group Members” comprised, as it were, of chiefs of government in New Zealand.
The next speaker, Dame Sylvia, spoke about how lucky we are compared to the corrupt Cambodia where she is currently posted as a judge of the Exemplary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). She spoke of the bribery and influence which she said allows Prime Minister Hun Sen to give government contracts to all his mates and she decried him as a puppet of the Vietnamese. It soon became evident the TINZ directors who repeatedly visit Cambodia are getting the short end of the stick. Knowing Sylvia gets them in the door but does not have the tangible coattails some feel her position should afford her mates.
Director Murray Petrie talked about “the last time I was at the Ministry of Justice in Cambodia” and Director Snively was thanked by Dame Sylvia for bringing her a loaf of bread. However, Kiwisfirst could not get an answer to the query of how many members and directors of TINZ have financial interests in Cambodia, leaving any estimate to be gleaned from the less than transparent financial report for 2013 which had under “Other Expenses” $81,107 in “Events, conferences, travel and other expenses”.
Only in such a transparent organisation would you find almost 35% of their outgoings listed as ‘other expenses’ under ‘other expenses’.
Message to Robert Mugabe: Your country Zimbabwe is currently 166th in TI’s Corruption Perception Index. But if you agree to fund your local chapter and restrict membership to government officials as in New Zealand, your “perception” as less corrupt is a foregone conclusion. Come to New Zealand and this chapter will show you how it is done.